March 6, 2017
America has experienced political turbulence in the past, but what is happening right now is unlike anything that has come before.
With mainstream media presenting anything to do with Donald Trump as a scandal, the real scandal is Barack Obama and the Democrats’ war to undermine and oust Trump. In many ways it is without precedent in US history.
Here’s why it is historically and politically significant.
- Biggest Washington Civil War Since The US Civil War
After 1865 when the Union forces (north) won the Civil War, the country was deeply politically divided. Republicans in Washington favoured radical reforms to ensure the human rights, economic rights and political rights of the freed slaves of the former Confederacy (South).
Things came to a head during the Presidency of Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s Vice President and a Democrat who succeeded Lincoln after his assassination. Although Lincoln was a Republican with popular support in the north and much of the west, Johnson was seen as a compromise candidate to try and build ties with the deeply Democratic south.
Johnson however was engaged in a constant struggle with the Republican congress who favoured an aggressive programme of southern reconstruction.
In 1868, Johnson was impeached by The House of Representatives. The specific charge was Johnson’s violation of the Tenure of Office Act when he tried to remove Edwin Stanton from his position as War Secretary.
However, the overriding reason for the impeachment was the total war between Johnson and the Republicans in Congress. The Tenure of Office violation was merely the technical justification to do what most Republicans wanted to do from the beginning of Johnson’s time in office.
Johnson was not removed from office as he was acquitted in the Senate.
With Trump one sees Democrats trying hard to find the most obscure technicality to justify the current President’s impeachment. But as with Johnson, the current dispute is not a technical issue but one of total ideological, party political opposition.
There are two big difference though. The Republican party is more divided than it was in the 1860,s but unlike Johnson who had sympathies for old slaveholders and racists, Trump has the weight of morality on his side. He wants to make peace with Russia, nothing more and nothing less. The people know this on the whole and are watching closely.
- The Foreign Element
In 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican House of Representatives and like Johnson, later acquitted by the Senate. Richard Nixon may well have been impeached for the Watergate break in, but resigned before Congress had such an opportunity.
However with Johnson, Nixon and Clinton, the dispute between the President and Congress was one of domestic affairs. With Trump the opposition are openly implying that the President and his associates are liaising illegally and unethically with a foreign power. The implication is something close to, if not, outright treason.
Of course, Trump and his associates haven’t done anything wrong. Foreign states are always consulted at every level of Federal power and most of these consultations are either hum-drum and meaningless or else chances to build positive relations. The idea that SPEAKING to a foreign power makes one treasonous is as absurd as saying that speaking to a lawyer makes one automatically a criminal.
- The Predecessor Strikes Back
Andrew Johnson never had to worry about his predecessor sabotaging his administration as he was dead. Nixon too did not have Lyndon Johnson, who himself ended his presidency under a shroud of failure, saying anything from the side-lines.
With Trump, Obama who lives close to the White House is widely believed to be leading much of the Democrats’ attempt to undermine Trump. Hillary Clinton too has spoken of ‘resistance’ and ‘fighting’. These are not words of reconciliation, they are words of bellicosity.
- The Election That Never Dies
Andrew Johnson was never elected in his own right, and revelations about the Watergate break-in did not come out until President Nixon took office during his second term. Likewise, Bill Clinton never campaigned by saying ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’, though a memorable campaign slogan it would have been.
By contrast, it was the Democrats who employed the ‘Trump has dangerous connections with Russia’ line during the campaign. Having failed to win the argument with voters, they are now using the same argument against the candidate who is now President.
They lost the ‘Putin did it and it’s Trump’s fault’ argument with the voters, so now they are trying it among the Washington elite, and the Deep State. The school-yard phrase ‘no do-overs’ comes to mind.
- An International Embarrassment
During the Watergate era US prestige abroad was severely weakened, whereas under the steadfast leadership of Brezhnev the Soviet Union was able to bring the west to the table and sign the Helsinki Accords.
However the US’s decline in prestige actually predated Watergate. The ruinous war in Vietnam as well as multiple political assassinations in the 1960s (JFK, MLK, RKF), led many to think of the US as a place that was far more grim than the images of a John Wayne film or lyrics of a Beach Boys song would have suggested.
But with Trump, other nations are seeing the US political establishment at war with itself in the open and without restraint, this cannot do any good for America’s image abroad. It makes America look worse than conflicted or comprised, it makes America look like a banana republic.
How can America be reasonably expected to know how to mediate in Syria, Israel-Palestine, Donbass-Kiev, or any other disputes if it cannot even solve its own political crisis?
The answer is that it can’t, and the world can see that even more vividly than it did in the 1970s.